Here are a few comments, today, regarding the "Emergent" or "emerging church." I don't pretend to know a ton, and I know if I start making sweeping statements that people will complain (if anybody actually reads this), due to the breadth of the movement.
What I like:
- Semper Reformanda. I like the zeal for getting rid of the junk and thinking about Christianity from outside of the box. I appreciate the acknowledgment of some serious problems. These guys seem to react against dead orthodoxy and the fact that the American Church is becoming increasingly lax and impotent in our culture. We have tons of dead formalism, and we lack excitement to reach our culture. By all means... shake it up.
What I dislike:
- I dislike that the reaction against "dead orthodoxy" often leads to a departure from both the "dead" and the "orthodoxy." Dogmatism is seen as an evil. Propositional truth, being dogmatic about that truth, God's blessed truth, is seen as a vice. While it can be a vice, for sure, we dare not see dogmatism on something such as justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as being a vice.
- I dislike that the tendency toward being "hip" and "culturally relevant" may alienate some folks. This is only repeating the same problem found in the fundamentalist super-home-schooled ultra-family-centered church. What place is there in a church like that for a divorced retiree, a woman with 3 kids from 3 different men, a single 20-something who is new to the faith and desperately trying to fight their homosexual urges? Likewise, with these "hip" churches, will mom and dad feel excluded? (I suppose it depends on who your mom and dad is, but you get what I mean). It fosters an environment of un-Biblical exclusivity. We need to get it through our heads that we all stand as individuals before God, not with our families or with our hip, culturally relevant peers, and we all need to be reborn as individuals and trust in Christ as individuals -to be called into this fellowship that is the Church. The uniting factor is not the music we like, our age, our race. It is low estate and our great Savior.
- I dislike, in sum, that, I believe, it misses the mark by trying to address tangential issues. Again, I don't want to broadly include everybody in this. It doesn't apply to all. However, whatever "solution" we have to the obvious ailments of the Church, are we just throwing another fad, another viewpoint, another gimmick at it -just like the whole "Purpose-Driven" thing, the "seeker-sensitive" thing? Rick Warren is ultimately aiming at the same problem. He sees the Church as weak and impotent, as people not passionate about anything, and he sees dead orthodoxy as one of the culprits. He wants to change how we think about Church. I am all for that but I think it is common for the Church to spit out reactionary movements that tend to go in strange and even un-Biblical directions. We need to shed the baggage, true, but not the core, not the heart. We need to get back to the heart, not shrowd it with something new. Want to be culturally relevant? Preach the Gospel like you love it. Preach our deadness in sin and Christ-crucified as the only basis of righteousness before a Holy God. Peach what it means to be justified by faith. We don't need to dress it up. The Gospel is our relevance to the lost world. If we are constantly trying to come up with other things to make us relevant and engaging, it only shows that we don't believe this fact.
But wait... isn't that our problem to begin with? So how is repeating the same problem the solution? I think our problem is that, even if we jettison that cold hyper-dogmatism, even if we make the church more fun and hip and less un-Biblically traditional (which can all be good things), we still have to come to grips with the fact that we believe the Gospel, but we don't really believe it. We don't cherish it, we aren't a people who are, above anything else, about Christ crucified. We are hooked on a zillion other things: self-esteem, politics, moral issues, family values, etc., and yet we seem to be losing ground still. Why? Perhaps it is because we forgot our first love. We don't see Christ crucified, the Gospel, as exiciting or relevant -at least not relevant enough just by itself.